22 May 2018 by David Ward
From New Zealand’s boutique lodges to wilderness getaways in Canada’s Rocky Mountains and Chile’s national-park wonders, these are the destinations you’ll need to book now for travel in the first half of 2019.
You’ve probably seen it a million times: “Book now to avoid disappointment”; “hurry, selling fast”; “the early bird catches the worm”… well maybe not, but you get the idea. Surely these well-worn phrases are nothing more than over-used sales tools, clichés to get prospective punters to pick up the phone? In some cases you’d be right, but for a selection of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, these messages of urgency are not to be ignored. Here, we pick out five of our favourite travel hotspots where early booking is absolutely essential. Whether it’s due to their overriding popularity, the growth in holidaymakers from destinations such as China, or simply a paucity of high-quality accommodation, if any of the following places feature in your early-2019 travel plans, now is the time to book.
Ah, New Zealand, its sweeping Alpine landscapes, vast fjords, bubbling hot springs and welcoming, walkable cities have long been a favourite of the UK holidaymaker. It’s a country tailor-made for escapism, and with a population of just 4.6 million it’s certainly not short of wide open spaces. However, visitor numbers to this Pacific nation are on the rise, and with a limited number of high-quality hotels – many of which are boutique into the bargain – it’s essential to book early, especially for the peak season between November and early March. And it’s not just New Zealand’s wild remotes where rooms are at a premium. It can be just as tricky to secure a hotel room in Auckland and Queenstown as it can in the countryside, especially with an increase in visitor numbers from relatively new markets such as China. Excursions, too, can get booked out months in advance, with popular attractions such as Hobbiton regularly turning away hopeful guests in the busier months who’ve failed to pre-book. So, if 'The Land of the Long White Cloud' is high on your 2019 wish list, call our specialists today to get planning, and booking, your trip. They’ll walk you through the best options and, where necessary, point you towards the best alternatives to help you make the most of your trip.
Matakauri Lodge near Queenstown - boutique hotels such as this get booked out months in advance
As with New Zealand, much of Canada’s charm lies in its wild landscapes, with rushing rivers and emerald lakes framing the Rockies’ snowy peaks, all overlooked by luxury lodges where the service and food are first class, and the number of rooms can be counted on one hand. Much the same can be said for the increasingly popular east coast, where converted lighthouses and architect-designed hotels look out to an ocean home to breaching whales and giant icebergs. It’s a natural beauty that’s not gone unnoticed by the world’s other globe-trotting nations, with the Chinese in particular taking a shine to many of Canada’s natural-world delights. Peak season across the country is summer, but the most popular lodges can be booked up well in advance throughout the year. To secure your place at the best hotels, and to avoid the tour-bus hordes, you’ll need a combination of early booking and expert advice. Our Canada specialists are on hand with all the insider knowledge required to plan an unforgettable holiday.
Fogo Island Inn - ultra-modern luxury on Newfoundland's dramatic coast. With just 29 rooms, it's sure to sell out fast
Cherry blossom season is Japan at its picturesque best. Imposing castle grounds are softened with bright pink blooms and Kyoto’s geishas perform dances to mark the changing of the season. But the coloured animation doesn’t stop there. As the trees light up, a carnival atmosphere sweeps through this usually reserved nation. Join families and couples in the country’s traditional gardens, city parks and cosy riverbanks for what’s known as a hanami, or ‘flower viewing’ picnic, and head out at dusk when the blossom is set aglow by hanging lanterns. But when’s the best time to go? The cherry blossom opens as a wave, blooming as early as February in Okinawa then slowly climbing north, cresting in Tokyo and Kyoto in early April before rippling into northern Hokkaido in May. As it spreads, you’ll find that sakura cherry blossom products follow in its wake; there’s flavoured dumplings, crisps and even beer. However, when planning your pilgrimage, remember that accommodation, especially the country's much sought after ryokans, gets booked up well in advance, often at greatly increased rates. Speak to our specialists now to secure the best hotels at the best prices. It’s also worth noting that, if you’re travelling outside cherry blossom season, as many do, 2019 is also the year that Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup. Running from 20 September to 2 November, this festival of sport will surely showcase Japan at its celebratory best, but will also mean both flights and hotels are hard to come by. Call us now to find out more.
With views like these, it's no wonder Japan's cherry blossom season is popular
With its wall-to-wall (or ocean-to-ocean) wildlife and spectacular landscapes that range from still-smoking volcanoes to dense jungles and idyllic gold-sand beaches, Costa Rica is unsurprisingly popular. And, while its annual influx of tourists might not compare to that of Canada, New Zealand or Japan, Costa Rica's peak travel season (mid-December to early March), when the weather is at its driest, sees enough visitors to make securing a spot in the best hotels more than a little challenging. Many of the lodges here, especially those in the remotest spots, are small but perfectly formed, idyllic bases from which to see the likes of prowling leopards and resplendent quetzals in their natural habitat. Furthermore, with just one direct flight from the UK, operated three times a week by British Airways, seats and the best fares, especially during the busy months, can sell out quickly.
What Costa Rica's lodges lack in room count, they more than make up for with location - exhibit 'A' – Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa
The last of our featured book-now-for-2019 destinations is Chile. And, the theme of natural beauty and limited accommodation continues in this country of impossibly spectacular national parks that span everything from the vast Martian-like deserts of the Atacama to the snow-capped granite spires of Torres del Paine. High-quality lodges are few and far between, but those there are among the finest in Latin America. Expect delicious food, a whole range of adventurous activities – often included in the price – and views to make your eyes water. The peak season here is between mid-December and early March, when the warmer temperatures see local and international visitors alike flock to Patagonia’s mountains, lakes and grasslands. As such, demand always outstrips supply, so you’ll need to book well in advance to secure your preferred dates. What’s more, with no further building of lodges permitted in Torres del Paine, the pressure on rooms is only likely to worsen as this much-talked-about country’s popularity continues to soar. And, similarly to Costa Rica, a solitary direct service from the UK to Santiago with British Airways, albeit five times a week, means more of a scramble to secure the best airfares, too.
Explora Patagonia is one of just a handful of hotels inside Chile's Torres del Paine National Park